The Skinny on Prenatal Vitamins {And What You Should Take}

You find out you're pregnant and you're ecstatic. You start planning the baby room, name options, and saving up for a college fund. Then your physician reminds you to grab some prenatals. Are they that important? And which should you take?

Commercial Prenatals

The majority of over the counter prenatals contain synthetic vitamins, which are not assimilated into the body as are naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

The effects of low folate (folic acid is the synthetic form) during pregnancy spurred vitamin manufacturer's to begin adding folic acid to supplements in the 1980's. Since then, over the counter prenatals have contained around 400 mcg of the stuff. 

The issue is that it's synthetic folate, and blocks your receptors for the real thing and can even turn into a toxin in your body. 


The Enemy: Folic Acid

Except it's not. Folate is the natural form of this B vitamin, and folic acid is the synthetic version. What's the big deal? A lot.
Women who supplemented folic acid during pregnancy were followed in a study for 30 years, finding that those who supplemented were 20-30% more likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not supplement folic acid. 

It also has harmful effects to the child. Children of mothers who supplemented this harmful vitamin are more likely to have asthma, respiratory infections, allergies, and heart defects.

However, natural folate consumed from foods showed to decrease the risk of breast cancer in women, and also decrease the risk of ADHD in children born of the women. 

Best Natural Prenatal Vitamins

Not so Great

Even the natural brand prenatals are lacking on real health.

Rainbow Light prenatals contain the not-so-absorbable vitamin D2, and folic acid. 

New Chapter's Perfect Prenatal doesn't contain folate at all, nor calcium or magnesium. It also contains soy.

Better

Garden of Life Raw prenatals are pretty good. You'll find whole food-based supplements and natural folate. These are available at every natural health food store, and are around $60 for a month's supply. Though this is a food-based supplement, the vitamin K and copper levels are low.

MegaFood Baby & Me and Baby & Me 2 is also a great whole food supplement, but doesn't contain the healthiest form of vitamin A, and is low in calcium and magnesium. 

Best

Seeking Health brand is developed by Dr. Ben Lynch, a leading doctor in the biomedical field, running you around $60 per month.  Methylfolate, However, there is no iron, so be sure to supplement iron on the side (with liver pills if possible). It is not food based, as well. Zahler Prenatal + DHA also only contains methylfolate, in addition to DHA. A bottle is $35.

Prenatal Nutrition 

In today's day and age, even the best diet may not cut it. The soil is depleted of minerals, irradiated to kill the good, living bacteria, and thus the plants and animals we consume are also deficient.

Here's the thing. You cannot out-supplement a bad diet. But you can eat enough nutrient-dense foods to not need supplements, and thus prevent disease in both yourself and your child. It's best to focus on your food consumption and add a high quality supplement as an addition (if you can afford it). 

- Check your iron before supplementing iron with a supplement. It's best to simply consume grass-fed liver or liver pills during pregnancy.

- Eat foods high in vitamins A, D, E, and K (like butter!)

- Go old school and eat plenty of dates, blackstrap molasses and egg yolks. These are the prenatals of old. 

- Supplement magnesium all the time, especially during pregnancy. (Note: do NOT use Natural Calm or any form of magnesium citrate). 

- Supplement a high quality methylfolate (especially if you have a MTHFR mutation). 

- Load up on red raspberry leaf tea, which has shown to strengthen contractions without increasing pain.

- Eat high folate foods daily. 

- Focus on high quality, grassfed, organic, and local protein. 

- Skip fish. Most fish today contains high levels of heavy metals.

- Add in lots of plant fats.

- During the last month of pregnancy, supplement evening primrose oil to soften the cervix (unless you have complications or a history of early labors). 

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